Why Akathleptos?

Why Akathleptos? Because it means Uncontainable. God is infinite. Hence, the whole universe cannot contain Him. The term also refers to the incomprehensibility of God. No man can know everything about God. We can know Him personally but not exhaustively, not even in Heaven.

Why Patmos? Because the church is increasingly marginalized and exiled from the culture.

Why Pen-Names? So the focus is on the words and not who wrote them. We prefer to let what we say stand on its own merit. There is precedent in church history for this - i.e., the elusive identity of Ambrosiaster who wrote in the 4th century A.D.

“Truth is so obscured nowadays, and lies so well established, that unless we love the truth we shall never recognize it." Blaise Pascal



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Living in a Necrophilic Culture


David Mosley posted a thought-provoking blog here entitled "“Living” in a Necrophilic Culture: Reflections on Catherine Pickstock and C. S. Lewis". He effectively argues that western culture actually worships death - not life. In seeking to banish death (we don't even use the term anymore, saying instead that someone "passed") and "preserve life immune from death in pure sterility", our culture is "secretly doomed to necrophilia, love of what has to die, can only die".

As he summarizes,

We live in a necrophilic culture. That one claims to prize life, but really, ultimately, worships death. So maybe, the right way to live in a culture that sacrifices life to death is to live a life that recognizes death ...

In "Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians", Chris Armstrong astutely observes,

“This sort of reflection brings us into the important realm of medical ethics, in which Christians should have a distinctive witness. But it also impacts the sort of medical care we provide to individuals, particularly when the story of the medieval Christian origin and operation of the hospital pulls us back toward a balance. It took the British Christian Cecily Saunders (1918–2005) and her hospice movement to back us away from the medical obsession with taking every heroic, technology-assisted measure to keep a person alive, even to the detriment of his or her quality of life. Death happens, as does suffering, and there are kinds of pain to which medical science will never have an answer. What is needed in those cases is a different kind of care—something less like the gleaming machinery, tubes, and beeping screens of the modern palliative care unit and more like the brothers of the monastery lining up on both sides of the dying man’s bed, praying and singing as he suffers and sinks toward death.”

Amen.

The wonders of western medical technology can artificially prolong life and morph death from an event into an increasingly lengthy process of years often accompanied by incontinence, impotence, dementia, loss of mobility and significant pain and suffering. (I have been in nursing homes and heard patients pitifully begging to die.) While I can understand the unbeliever grasping at straws in a futile attempt to hold death at bay, many elderly Christians have foolishly brought into the same mindset. Instead of properly embracing their impending death as final victory (1 Cor 15) and release from this fallen world accompanied by entrance into eternal glory, they let the world dictate a prolonged and agonizing end of their lives.

As I wrote earlier here,

It is important to make the distinction between killing someone and letting them die - i.e., letting a process that is underway proceed without interference. In cases where a patient has clearly articulated their desire to die, and where there is no reasonable hope of recovery and death appears imminent - it does not seem morally wrong to allows one to die rather than initiating an artificial life support system or prolong the dying process by artificial means.

It's mystifying to me when mature Christians who are elderly and in failing health approach death with a firm resolve to cling to life for as long as absolutely possible with every possible resource available. Figuratively speaking they hang onto this world by their fingernails and have to be dragged into Paradise kicking and screaming. Suicide and euthanasia are morally wrong. But death itself is a release for the believer - as Paul says, it is far better to depart this fallen world and be with Christ (Phil 1:23). I believe part of the problem is the reluctance of the church to theologically deal with the topic of death head-on, instead of leaving it as a White Elephant that everyone knows about, but nobody talks about. I can understand unbelievers fearing death and availing themselves of every last possible medical option and grasping at the last straw, no matter how painful or expensive, to "buy" a few more moments. 

The ESV Study Bible provides pertinent theological analysis for difficult end-of-life issues:

The End of Life

As a result of the fall, physical death is inevitable for all people (Rom. 5:12–14; 1 Cor. 15:21–22). The process of dying is frequently accompanied by illness, suffering, and pain. Euthanasia is one way people have sought to eliminate end-of-life suffering. Euthanasia occurs when a terminally ill person dies as a result of a deliberate act of commission (active euthanasia) or omission (passive euthanasia) by another person seeking to hasten the ill person’s death in order to end his or her suffering. The person who is ill may have given informed consent (voluntary), may have withheld consent (involuntary), or may have been incompetent to give consent (non-voluntary).

Active euthanasia is clearly prohibited by the sixth commandment, regardless of the ill person’s request. This moral principle is seen in the case of King Saul. Fatally injured, Saul commanded his armor-bearer to kill him so that he would not suffer humiliation from his enemies. His armor-bearer refused, however (1 Sam. 31:3–5). In contrast, when the Amalekite brought news of Saul’s death to David, claiming that he had killed Saul at the king’s own request in order to end his misery, David executed the Amalekite for taking Saul’s life (2 Sam. 1:1–16). 


Passive euthanasia involves withholding either natural life-sustaining means (e.g., food, water, air) or unnatural life-sustaining means (e.g., life-supporting machines) in order to cause death and thus end suffering. Many Christian ethicists believe that withholding natural means of life-sustenance from helpless patients is comparable to withholding the same means from an infant, as it will directly cause death. This act of negligence leading to death is thus also viewed as being prohibited by the sixth commandment. A somewhat different question is whether doctors are ethically able to withhold futile treatments that do not improve the prospect of recovery and only prolong the process of dying when death is imminent and inevitable. In such cases, according to some Christian ethicists, it is morally acceptable to allow such a person to die, though whenever there is a reasonable chance of recovery or improvement of the quality of life this should be pursued. 

There is a moral difference between euthanasia (clearly forbidden) and letting a terminal process occur for a Christian that is already underway.

Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives (Heb 2:14-15)


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